Season OU 11: No. 3 LB Eric Striker

Sooners' feared pass rusher raised expectations all season

For the next 10 days Sooners Illustrated will count down the top 11 players of the season for Oklahoma as voted by Bob Przybylo and Justin Hite during the season.

No. 3 linebacker Eric Striker (60 points)

It’s really hard to blatantly measure why Striker is one of the top pass rushers in the country.

There’s a lot lacking in him. He’s not straight-line fast, isn’t overly strong and is undersized against almost every lineman – or running back – he is matched up against.

What makes Striker so good is his quick-twitch nature. Armed with fast hands and lightning fast feet, Striker’s first step is brutal to defend. He can react in an instant, and he knows how to get separation almost immediately.

He’s the complete collegiate pass rusher.

“You have to have a quick memory, kind of like a baseball player,” he said. “You have to forget it. It’s like a next at-bat. You have to forget it. Just like that, you have to have a quick memory, come back and give your best on the next play. He may have got you on this play, but it’s competition.

”It’s a game. You are going to lose some. You are going to win some.”

This season, Striker won more than his fair share. When he didn’t win, his teammates did.

It’s hard to believe that Striker had only our quarterback hurries all season – to go along with 14 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. He had more sacks than any other two players combined.

The problem for Striker is that most of his quarterback hurries didn’t become a tally mark on his stat line. Instead, they became sacks for his teammates.

He does it with a swagger that’s all is own. Striker isn’t cocky, but he’s just good enough to know he can get the job done. That’s really a mentality you want from a pass rusher. You want a guy that knows he can get to the quarterback.

This season, Striker switched into more of a pass defense role, rushing the quarterback far less. Playing nickel back was an adjustment for him and dropping into coverage was foreign territory.

It definitely took time as he was exposed early in the year, but he finished the season with four break-ups and four passes defended – sixth on the team.

He was always ready for the additional responsibility.

“It’s nothing I can’t handle,” he said earlier this season. “I’m gonna do what coach asks me to do regardless. So I’m gonna make it happen. I’m gonna find a way to be comfortable. I’m still comfortable with it.”

He was the most important player on the Sooners’ defense as far as the OU 11 is concerned. He finished with 11 more points than middle linebacker Dominique Alexander and bested Geneo Grissom by 22.

Striker finished higher than fourth only once but just like he was in opposing backfields, he was a constant presence.

He made the list nine of 12 times, including the first six games of the season. He raised the expectations for himself, having to do more than other players in order to make the list.

If he didn’t have a sack in any Big 12 Conference game, he didn’t make the list. As the season wore on, he had to make a bigger and bigger impact to even crack the top 11.

That’s much more of a compliment to the outside linebacker than a knock on him.

He has made everybody else expect what he already expects out of himself.

Przybylo's favorite moment: Don't care what the stats say, Striker had his best game against Tennessee. You can't tell me the Vols' quarterback didn't wake up in sweating in the middle of the night with visions of Striker coming after him. It's when the term "disruptions" was coined by OU writers across the board. This was a national primetime showcase, and he brought the goods.

Hite's favorite moment: It's hard to believe that Striker didn't record a sack against Tennessee. He was in the backfield the whole game. It was special to watch him show out against the Vlunteers.

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